I was embarrassed and surprised when I realised I didn’t know how to spell it.
I had said it multiple times. I pronounce it correctly. I knew the meaning of the phrase in which it is commonly coined and have appropriately (and wittily) used it in conversations.
But when I wanted to type it, I found myself working backwards from its pronunciation to decode a plausible Google search.
The first time I saw the word “awry”, it seemed so awkward to me. Not because it’s phonetically dissonant; in fact, it’s one of the few words in the English language that is actually spelt like how it sounds.
It looked weird because I was accustomed to only hearing it, not seeing it. It was the context that threw me off, (oral communication, not written), not the accuracy of the content.
Grammatically, there are a lot of words that may catch us off-guard or seem strange in a certain context. Spiritually, this is even more acute.
Take the word “compassion” for instance.
More to the story
In John chapter 5 verses 1-8, Jesus miraculously heals a man who has been an invalid for over 38 years. By simply commanding him to “Pick up your mat and walk” (verse 8), Jesus rescues him from decades of physical anguish, financial hopelessness, and the emotional frustration of never being able to dip in the pool when the angel stirred it.
Most of us stop reading (and preaching) the story at that point, and we add it to the long tally of wonderful, uplifting examples of Jesus showing compassion and mercy to the most vulnerable and helpless in society.
But there’s more to the story.
In verse 14, Jesus encounters the man a second time with a new command: “Stop sinning before something worse happens to you.”
Other side of the coin
In verse 8, Jesus’ compassion led Him to rescue the paralytic from physical despair.
In verse 14, Jesus’ compassion led Him to rescue the paralytic from spiritual despair. Can you imagine something worse than being an invalid for 38 years?!
According to the modern-day, sugar-coated, faux Christianity, Jesus’ attitude to the paralytic deteriorates from being loving and kind in verse 8 to being called harsh and judgemental in verse 14. Western culture only denotes love and compassion in one context: encouragement, gentleness and affirmation. Any other expression is, at best, condemning and worst, teetering on the edge of hate.
By ignoring the other side of the coin, unbelievers never get to understand or experience the full, life-saving truth of the God’s love and compassion.
Examine our hearts
It’s easy to condemn modern culture as biased and skewed. But we need to examine our own hearts. Like “awry”, the right thing can look wrong if we become accustomed to seeing it in a specific context, i.e. our limited, vacillating and selfish perspective instead of God’s infallible truth and infinite wisdom.
When we like an outspoken person, we call him/her “passionate.” When we don’t like the person, we call him/her “opinionated.”
When we empathise with the focus of a ministry, we call it “focused” and “aligned with a calling.” When we don’t, the ministry is “narrow-minded” or “partial”.
When we agree with an advocacy group, we call its cause “strategic”. When we don’t, we call it “discriminatory.”
Right Way Round
I John chapter 4 verse 8 says “God is love”.
As a former pastor of mine wisely explained, the ordering of those three small words is profound and deliberate. The Bible does not say that “Love is God”, lest we use our limited, perverse understanding of love to define who God is. By defining love according to who God is (and not the other way around), we always know what to use as our plumbline.
Out of the Box
All our preferences, opinions and feelings must be taken captive to make them obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 5). And logically, we cannot make them obedient to a Christ Whom we neither know, trust nor revere.
Obedience can end in a plethora of ways, abundant blessings and peace, or radical, painful sacrifice that others around us (including Christians) do not understand or endorse. But obedience always starts with the same thing: putting God on the throne instead of in a box.
Kacy Garvey is a Christian poet, speaker and activist. In 2011, she launched "Rahab", an outreach to prostitutes in Geneva, Switzerland. She is a USAID certified HIV Testing and Counselling Provider and has also successfully completed training in Trafficking in Persons conducted by the International Organisation on Migration (IOM). She performs original pieces of spoken word poetry to various audiences, and in 2014 and 2018, she launched “Undone” and “Water Jar”, the first and only Christian poetry albums published in Jamaica thus far. As a founding member of the Love March Movement (since 2012) and #MarriageMattersJA (since 2018), she is a regular presenter on the science, politics and biblical worldviews on sex and sexuality. In January 2021, Kacy launched Caribbean Christian Response, an online movement that reviews the news from a biblical worldview and gathers millennials across the region to pray together and seek God’s heart on these issues.